Wednesday 5 December 2012

A very human-faced lion

Great to see more records from the War Office being rapidly added to Find My Past, and as I've mentioned somewhere else (and I'll be blowed if I can find exactly where), the Royal Coats of Arms are worthy of study in their own right.  The image above is taken from a discharge paper in WO 122 and dates to 1803.  If I didn't know better, I'd say that the lion has been modelled on a person.  Take a good look.  It's certainly doesn't appear to be an animal's face. Can anyone speculate as to the lion's identity?  Duke of Wellington perhaps?

Friday 12 October 2012

Undertones of Worley

I have been re-reading Edmund Blunden's Undertones of War and was pleasantly surprised to find that pages from Edmund Blunden's minute book are available online at the First World War Digital Poetry Archive. These include photos of his much loved sergeant Frank Worley (above) as well as fellow officers and other personalities mentioned in his memoir.  This was a real find for me and I hope it may be for others too.

Frank Worley's service record does not survive but we know that he joined the 11th Royal Sussex on the 11th September 1914 (probably at Worthing) and that he was given the number SD/555.  His medal index card incorrectly records his name as WARLEY. Frank Worley was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, his citation reading:

He was discharged due to wounds in December 1918, married in 1922 and died at Worthing in 1954 at the age of 63.  The register entry for his death records his name as Francis J (for Joseph) Worley.

Sunday 23 September 2012

The British Army & The Indian Railway

A while ago, wearing another hat as a so-called "military expert" for Find My Past, I attempted to answer a query from Jean Field regarding her British Army ancestor who was apparently, at some point in time, serving concurrently with the Indian Railways.  Jean's original query and my response is here, on the Find My Past blog.

Last week, re-reading Old Soldier Sahib by Frank Richards, I came across this passage which explains how the arrangement worked.  Frank was a regular soldier serving in India at the turn of the last century with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers and he later served with distinction throughout World War I, winning the DCM and the MM into the bargain. I wish I'd recalled this passage from Old Soldier Sahib when I originally replied to Jean.

"One railway company invited men of good character to go through a six months' course of railway training. The only men who were eligible for this course were those who had six or twelve months to serve before they became time-expired. If they went through this course they were away from the battalion for six months but drew their ration money and pay; the railway company found them lodgings and also paid them a rupee a day for the duration of the course.  At the end of it they had to pass an examination, but even if they passed it they could still please themselves whether they took a job on the railway or went back to the battalion. If they accepted a job they were transferred to the Army Reserve, in spite of having perhaps six months still to serve before they became time-expired.  They generally began work as passenger guards, and rose from that to something higher."

Sunday 17 June 2012

The Regimental Missus

Chanced upon this whilst doing some research on the 1st Bradford Pals:

My curiosity whetted, I clicked onto the image:

Married to the regiment, indeed.

Monday 14 May 2012

Facially disfigured servicemen from WW1

findmypast has published an expanded index of facially injured servicemen from WW1.  Due to the graphic nature of the majority of the images, just the indexes have been published, although parent company brightsolid paid to have the complete archive scanned and digitised and has provided digital copies to the Royal College of Surgeons which now holds the material.

The remarkable archive charts the work of Dr Harold Gillies and his pioneering teams who painstakingly reconstructed the faces of injured servicemen with remarkable results.  The photos on this page show the injury sustained by Lieutenant William Spreckley who - according to the index on findmypast - sustained a gunshot wound to his nose on the 14th January 1917.  In actual fact, his nose was completely blown off, as can be seen.  All the more remarkable then, that he should have achieved the appearance he had in later life  - see below:

William Spreckley, born in Derbyshire, died in 1974 at the age of 80.  His service record survives at The National Archives in London.

Harold Gillies's seminal work, Plastic Surgery of the Face, can be downloaded free of charge from The Internet Archive.  Click on the link.

Saturday 21 April 2012

WW1 Remembrance - all change

I've just changed the design template over on my WW1 Remembrance blog.  I'm hoping that having done so, the pages will be quicker to load and visitors will find it easier to navigate around.  One of the beauties of the new layout is that you can choose the way you want to view the posts.  I had a look at the mosaic layout on WW1 Remembrance and was surprised to see my grandfather - Walter Nixon - and his brother Jack, staring out at me side by side.  Although I've had those photos for a while, I'd never actually bothered to view them next to each other.

Walter, on the left, served with the Royal Garrison Artillery and survived although he was wounded and gassed.  Jack was not so lucky and was killed in action on the 3rd October 1918. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois memorial in France.  I am assuming his body must have been discovered as I have both of his identity tags which were presumably taken from his corpse.  That's why he has no known grave.  The correct procedure should have been to remove one of the tags and leave the olther on the body so that it could be identified.  As soon as both of those tags were removed he was destined to be buried in a grave identified only as "known unto God".

Saturday 14 April 2012

Manchester City Battalions

Great to see that has now added the platoon, officer and band photos for the Manchester City Battalions.

The photo on this post shows men of Platoon IX, C Company, 22nd (Service) Battalion, Manchester Regiment.  Read the story of one of the Manchester Pals - Harry Toplis Bardsley - on my World War 1 Veterans' blog.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

South Lancashire Regiment 1914-1919

Here's a nice site which I don't think I've mentioned before: The South Lancashire Regiment in the Great War 1914-1919.

Although the site is still a work in progress - as any site of this nature will be - there is some good information appearing and it will become an increasingly useful resource.

Cap badge courtesy of North East Medals.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Poor VC database added by Ancestry

Not had a chance to properly go over this yet, but Ancestry has jusst added a VC database to its military collection.  That's a good thing of course, although VCs are a well researched topic and there probably won't be anything new here for anybody.

Unfortunately the collection, such as it is, is only browsable by surname letter, and the quality of the images leaves much to be desired.  My recommendation: Google your VC hero first and scoop up all the free stuff that'a already on line.  You'll probably end up with as much, if not more, than there is on the Ancestry VC collection.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Crimean War VC winners on findmypast

The following men, all awarded the Victoria Cross for service during the Crimean War, have surviving service records in WO 97, now accessible on line thanks to To view a record, follow this WO 97 Chelsea Pensioners link and enter the details below (Note, you'll need Pay-Per-View credits or a subscription to view the records).

Crimean War VC holders

Alfred Ablett, Grenadier Guards
Thomas Beach, 55th Regiment of Foot
Joseph Bradshaw, Rifle Brigade
Daniel Cambridge, Royal Regiment of Artillery
William Coffey, 34th Regiment of Foot
George Gardiner, 57th Regiment of Foot
Thomas Grady, 44th Regiment of Foot
Matthew Hughes, 7th Regiment of Foot
Peter Leitch, Royal Engineers
John Lyons, 19th Regiment of Foot
John McDermond, 47th Regiment of Foot
Roderick McGregor, Rifle Brigade
James McKechnie, Scots Fusiliers Guards
James Owens, 49th Regiment of Foot
Anthony Palmer, Grenadier Guards
Saumuel Parkes, 4th Light Dragoons
John Perie, Royal Engineers
Joseph Prosser, 1st Regiment of Foot
William Reynolds, Scots Fusiliers Guards
John Ross, Royal Engineers
John Joseph Sims, 34th Regiment of Foot
Francis Wheatley, Rifle Brigade

In addition, the following Crimean War VC holders are referenced in the 1861 Worldwide Army Index:

John Farrell, 17th Lancers
William James Lendrim, Royal Engineers
George Strong, Coldstream Guards

If I had to pick out one record from those listed above it would be Roderick McGregor of the Rifle Brigade.  His service record notes that he was recorded 12 times in the Defaulter's book and court-martialled seven times.  No Long Service and Good Conduct medal for him then, but he did get the VC.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Military Medals awarded to the Royal Artillery

Two Royal Artillery releases in one day has got to be good news.

As well as releasing its data on WW2 honours and awards for the corps, Find My Past has also published a database of Military Medal awards to the Royal Artillery between 1916 and 1993.  There's also some useful general information contained on the site, for instance, the difference in the promotion ladders between WW1 and WW2:

Soldiers' ranks

During WWI, the artillery rank structure included corporal which was removed from the regiment in the 1920s and Serjeant became Sergeant. The WWI War promotion ladder consisted of:
  • Gnr – gunner
  • Bdr – bombardier (one stripe)
  • Cpl – corporal (two stripes)
  • Sjt – serjeant (three stripes with a gun above)
The WWII promotion ladder was:
  • Gnr – gunner
  • L/Bdr – lance bombardier (one stripe)
  • Bdr – bombardier (two stripes)
  • Sgt – sergeant (three stripes with a gun above)
Between gunner and bombardier there was a lance bombardier (L/Bdr) and between bombardier and corporal there was a lance corporal (L/Cpl). During WWII there was also the rank of lance sergeant 'L/Sgt'. The names of some of the ranks also denoted their role, for example:

Dvr – driver

A driver was a soldier trained in the management and use of horses. The six horses drawing the gun, or wagon, were driven by three drivers, all on the nearside horses, and much training was required before drivers would be rated as competent. The drivers, of course, also looked after the horses and the management, condition and state of health of these animals was regarded as one of the most important functions in the battery.

All branches of the artillery used horses, not just the RHA. By WWII, mechanisation had replaced the horse but the gun limbers, lorries and self-propelled guns all required drivers and the rank remained. The number of horses meant specialist roles of saddler, farrier, and shoeing smith were used and added to the name of the rank. Horse-drawn equipment needed wheelers and fitters and the officer needed clerks who could write in artillery code and signallers who could send it.
  • S/Sjt – staff serjeant
  • SM – serjeant major
  • QMS – quartermaster serjeant
  • BQMS – battery quartermaster serjeant
  • BSM – battery serjeant major (warrant officer class II)
  • RSM – regimental sergeant major (warrant officer class I)
 All MM awards to the RA are now searchable on findmypast.

WW2 Royal Artillery honours and awards online

If your Royal Artillery ancestor was in receipt of an award for service during the Second World War, you'll probably find him or her on a brand new dataset just released on Find My PastRoyal Artillery Honours and Awards 1939-1946 contains details of awards to over 21,000 men and may include the following information:
  • soldier's title, first name (sometimes only initials, last name, rank and number)
  • soldier's post nominals at the time of the award
  • date it appears in the London Gazette
  • unit the man was serving in at the time of the award, when known
  • award itself
  • branch of the regiment
  • theatre of operations in which the soldier was serving at the time
  • schedule number
  • file number
  • who the award was recommended by
  • theatre of operations
  • remarks on the award
  • further service notes, when known
  • status
  • date of event
  • cause of death (as applicable)
  • place of residence
  • date of discharge
  • reason for discharge
These records have been assiduously compiled by the librarian at the Royal Artillery museum in Woolwich and are searchable on findmypast from today.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Identifying the Guards

I picked up a copy of Anthony Edgeworth's The Guards yesterday and, looking at the photos, was reminded of an easy way to identify a particular regiment of Foot Guards. Simply look at the arrangement of the buttons on their tunics.

In terms of regimental precedence, the Grenadier Guards come first, followed by the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards,  the Irish Guards and finally, the Welsh Guards.

1. The Grenadier Guards - 1st - buttons arranged singly:

2. The Coldstream Guards - 2nd - buttons arranged in pairs:

3. The Scots Guards - 3rd - buttons arranged in groups of three:

4. The Irish Guards - 4th - buttons arranged in groups of four:

5. The Welsh Guards - 5th - buttons arranged in groups of five:

Easy when you know how.

The black and white photograph is courtesy of and then, in order of regimental precedence, The Daily Mail, Artangel, London SE1 and BBC News.

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Manchester City Battalions online

Find My Past has just added the Manchester City Battalions to its fast-growing military database.  Originally published in 1916, the Manchester Roll of Honour comprises a roll call of the men who served with the Manchester Pals battalions - the 16th to 23rd Battalions - giving details of platoons and companies served in.  Group photos are also included although these do not identify individuals by name.

The second part of the Manchester Roll of Honour is a listing of over 63,000 men and their employers. The detail provided in each of the rolls varies considerably. A small number of men are identified by last name only and many more only by last name and initials. There are also entries, however, in which the ranks, service numbers and regiments of each man are identified. A number of men are identified as killed or missing in action and a small number are recorded as having been rejected as unfit for service.

Monday 20 February 2012

54 Years with the 1st Devon Militia

My thanks to one of my correspondents, Black Sapper, who has provided extracts from the above publication which was written by William Shepherd in 1907 and subsequently transcribed by Helen Barlow (date unknown).  Helen Barlow's full transcription can be viewed online here as a PDF file on the Open University website.

1853 – Exeter Castle noted as HQ

18.12.1854 – Regiment was Embodied for Permanent Duty on account of the Crimean War; At that time the Regiment had 10 Companies (Grenadier Coy, 8 others & a Light Coy)

26.02.1855 – Left half of Regiment moved to Newport, Monmouthshire.

27.02.1855 – Right half, HQ & Band moved to Newport via Bristol.

Regiment stayed at the Barracks on the Hill, Newport; They recruited hard for the Crimean War;
Regiment stayed at Newport until middle of December 1855.

December 1855 - Regiment moved to Limerick in Ireland via Birkenhead, Liverpool, Mersey &amp Kingston, Ireland; Then train to Dublin & eventually stationed at Boherbuoy Barracks, Limerick.

05.06.1856 Regiment left Limerick for Cork, stationed at the Barracks on the Hill for 7/8 days before being ordered to England.

After an eventful journey by sea they arrived in Portland & Weymouth Barracks probably on 17.07.1856.

New colours issued on 22.07.1856.

The Regiment marched for home on 25.07.1856 via Dorchester, then Bridport, Axminster, Honiton on 30.07.1856 a final march into Exeter.

1858 – Training at Topsham Barracks. The Regimental strength was 778, there were 261 Absentees; battalion billeted at various Inns in Exeter.

1859 – Regimental strength was 512, there were 275 Absentees; battalion billeted at Topsham Barracks.

Regiment stayed throughout the 60’s at Topsham Barracks.

1860 – Regimental strength was 590; battalion billeted at Topsham Barracks.

1861 – Regimental strength was 629; battalion billeted at Topsham Barracks.

1861 – Death of their late Colonel Hugh Earl Fortescue on 14.09.1861.

1862 – Regimental strength was 715; battalion billeted at Topsham Barracks.

1863 – Regimental strength was 754; battalion billeted at Topsham Barracks.

1864 – Regimental strength was 759; battalion billeted at Topsham Barracks.

1865 – Regimental strength was 658; battalion billeted at Topsham Barracks.

1866 – Regimental strength was 663; battalion billeted at Topsham Barracks.

1867 – Regimental strength was 693; battalion billeted at Topsham Barracks.

1868 – In consequence of the Fenian Scare full guard was mounted day &amp night over the Ward in St Thomas.

1869 – Regimental strength was 828 & Billeted at Topsham Barracks.

1869 – Regiment were in Plymouth for a Brigade Field Day at Devonport, returning the same day by train.

1870 – Billets were in St Thomas at Public, but with a strength of 802, part were in Cavalry Barracks the remainder in the billets.

1871 – Regimental strength was 803, Billeted in Inns & Private Lodgings; The Crown took Command of Militia Units from the County Authorities.

From this year it is noted that Topsham Barracks were denuded of regular troops for many years.

1872 – Regiment under canvas for the first time since 1812, at Exmouth & their strength was 882.

31.03.1873 – Recruits were assembled at the Ward & proceeded to Raglan Barracks at Devonport, returning on 11.05.1873 before being dismissed.

14.07.1873 – 428 men were called up to forma Battalion for Maneuvers on Dartmoor for up to 6 weeks – 2 weeks at Egg Buckland & 1 month with the Flying Column; They returned to Exeter on 22.08.1873 & were dismissed.

1874 – Regiment was 765 strong & encamped for Training at Dawlish.

1875 – (& for a few years after) Regiment was Billeted in St Thomas at Public.

In 1881 when the Regiment was 628 strong the 1st & 2nd Devons & the 1st & 2nd Devon Militia were formed into the Devonshire Regiment

1888 – Regiment moved from St Thomas to the Higher Barracks & then the Camp Field behind Topsham Barracks; New colours were issued about this time.

1890 – Training in the Camp at Barnstaple.

1891 to 1898 – Training was carried out in the Old Camp Field, Topsham.

1899 – Training was at Honiton in a camp on the Exeter Road.

11.05.1900 – Regiment was up for Permanent Duty on account of the South African War & went to Salisbury Plain, via Queen Street Station &amp Porton Station until arrival at Bulford Camp; They stayed here for 3 months before moving to another Camp at Parkhouse some 2 to 3 miles away; Camp Parkhouse was mostly Volunteers.

16.10.1900 Regiment left Camp Parkhouse for Jersey, Channel Islands via Grately Station, Andover, Southampton; They arrived in Jersey on 17.10.1900 & marched to St Peter’s Barracks.

At this time the 3rd Devon Regiment was embarking for Plymouth & the 1/4th were billeted at Fort Regent, St Hellier.

14.07.1901 the Regiment left Jersey for home but the Band remained in Jersey until at least 30.09.1901 when they returned to England via Weymouth & Exeter.

1902 – there was no Regimental Training.

1903 – Regiment training at Honiton.

1904 – Training at Honiton.

1905 – Training at Honiton.

1906 – Training in "a big field" at Honiton with 3rd Somersets.

Saturday 18 February 2012

12th Hampshire Regiment - officers and sergeants

Officers of the 12th Hampshire Regiment

I've just posted on numbering in the 1st & 2nd Hampshire Regiment over on the Army Service Numbers blog and whilst searching for an image to use in my Hampshire Regiment folder, came across these two photos of the 12th Hampshire Regiment published in the Illustrated War News on the 30th June 1915.

The Illustrated War News can be a great source for photos such as these, often showing not just the photos, but publishing a list of the subjects as well. 

According to The Long, Long Trail website, the 12th (Service) Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment was formed at Winchester in October 1914 and attached to the 79th Brigade in the 26th Division. It moved to Codford but by November 1914 was in billets in Basingstoke. In March 1915 it move to Bath and then on to Sutton Veny in May. The photos published here were probably taken around this time.

The battalion landed in France in September 1915 but was sent to Salonika shortly afterwards, arriving on the 25th November 1915.

Sergeants of the 12th Hampshire Regiment

Sunday 5 February 2012

New look CWGC website

Somewhat belatedly (because I've only just noticed) I see that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has revamped its website, including the search functionality.

Not before time, visitors can now search by rank, service number, regiment, secondary regiment and honours and awards.  Furthermore, it is now possible to search solely on a term without having to key in other information. So for instance, one can see that there are 377 casualties who hold the Victoria Cross, 3658 holders of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (3346 of these holders dying during the First World War), and 2057 men with the rank of lieutenant colonel (which I must say, surprised me that there were quite so many).  Incredibly, there's also one casualty, Major General Charles Edward Dutton Budworth CB, CMG, MVO who was ten times Mentioned in Dispatches.  He is commemorated on the Kirkee War Memorial at Pune in India.

When results are returned it is possible, as it was before, to organise each column in ascending or descending order and now also possible to export data as a CSV file (although exports do not include the additional information field).  The ability to search by keyword, and thus pick up information in the Additional Information section would have been the icing on the cake, but I see that work is under way to include this. Even so, the new-look CWGC site is a vast improvement on the older site and can only assist family and military historians alike.

Tuesday 31 January 2012

Disrespectful and addicted to drink

The man pictured above is Richard Jackson, born in Burslem around 1843 and admitted to Aylesbury Gaol on the 30th October 1873 to serve a sentence of 21 days for stealing beans.  Richard was 30 years old and gave his trade as a boot closer.  Five years prior service in the 104th Regiment of Foot is also noted.

Richard's record from Aylesbury Gaol can be viewed here, in the Victorian Prisoners dataset maintained by Buckinghamshire County Council; another great (free) online resource.

I checked to see if Richard had a pension record in the WO 97 series published on and he does.  He was discharged on the 14th October 1869 being found unfit for further service.  His conduct was recorded as "... bad, he is not in possession of any good conduct badges.  Has been guilty of disrespect to his superiors and has been addicted to drink."  Richard's name appeared six times in the regimental defaulters' book and he was imprisoned for seven days on two separate occasions.  Pthisis Pulmonalis (consumption, or TB) was the cause of Richard's discharge from the army and he certainly looks older than his 30 years in the photo.  Further notes on his 1869 discharge record, "Greatly emaciated and suffering from cough and the usual symptoms of phthisis. Disease has probably been aggravated by intemperance." A sad story and I have been unable to find him on the 1881 census.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Company organisation in the VF and TF

Referring to the entry on the 1871 census which recorded my great great grandfather as a sergeant instructor of Volunteers, I recently wrote, "This was possibly the 1st or 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry as he was by then living in St Austell."  Actually, I should have known better.

There is enough published material to hazard a pretty good guess as to likely Volunteer Force (VF) or Territorial Force (TF) service for relatives whose home locations are known. 

Using my great great grandfather as an example, in 1871 what would become the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, was the 2nd Admin Battalion of Cornwall Rifle Volunteers. The battalion had been formed in 1859 and would retain its Rifle Volunteer title until 1880.  From 1908, with the creation of the Territorial Force, the battalion became the 5th Battalion, DCLI.

In Ray Westlake's, Tracing The Rifle Volunteers, he gives the 1880 location of companies in the 2nd VF battalion as follows:

A Company: Liskeard
B Company: Callington
C Company: Launceston
D Company: St Austell
E Company: Bodmin
F Company: Wadebridge
G Company: St Columb
H Company: Camelford
I Company: Saltash

Writing in 1909, Walter Richards, in His Majesty's Territorial Army, gives the company organsiation of the newly created 5th Battalion (by now, reduced to eight companies instead of nine) as:

A Company: Liskeard
B Company: Callington
C Company: Launceston
D Company: St Austell
E Company: Bodmin
F Company: Wadebridge
G Company: Newquay
H Company: Bude

Five year's later, on the eve of the First World War, the battalion (headquartered at Bodmin) breakdown had changed again:

A Company: Liskeard
B Company: Saltash, with a drill station at Callington
C Company: Launceston
D Company: St Austell, with a drill station at St Stephen
E Company: Bodmin, with a drill station at Lostwithiel
F Company: Camelford, with drill stations at Wadebridge and Delabole
G Company: St Columb, with a drill station at Nequay
H Company: Bude, with drill stations at Stratton, Kilkhampton and Morwenstow

From this brief snapshot it can be seen that whilst some company locations changed, the locations of A, C and D companies remained the same, at least from 1880 until 1914.  As far as my relative, a St Austell man, was concerned, it looks a good bet that he served with D Company.

My recommended reading for all those interested in the VF and TF would be:

Tracing The Rifle Volunteers; Ray Westlake
His Majesty's Territorial Army (four volumes); Walter Richards
The Territorial Year Book 1909
The Territorial Year Book 1910
The Territorial Battalions, A Pictorial History 1859-1985; Ray Westlake
The Territorial Force 1914, Ray Westlake

Also have a look at the excellent Drill Hall Project.